(NEW YORK) — The last time Robbie Rogers was on a soccer field, he carried a deep and personal secret, one he knew could destroy his dream of playing the game that he loves.
But just two months after revealing that secret to the world, Rogers is opening up on the burden of being gay in professional sports in his first TV interview.
In a recent interview with ABC’s Nightline, Rogers said he hid his sexuality all his life so he could fit in with the “macho, macho man” world of soccer.
“Because it’s sports. It’s the stereotype that you’re supposed to be this manly guy that is making tackles. It’s beating up on other guys,” Rogers said in the interview, which airs Monday night.
Rogers said part of his fear came from hearing gay slurs in locker rooms ever since high school.
The 25-year-old former member of the United States national team and professional soccer player in England walked away from the sport in February, after coming out in a letter he posted online.
What gave him the strength to finally come out?
“I think the same things that made it difficult for me to come out also gave me the strength,” Rogers said. “I was raised to be a voice, to be myself, to be unique, not to follow a pack.”
Rogers is considering a return to soccer in the United States, which would make him the first and only openly gay player in any professional men’s team sport.
Before he makes that decision, he recently traveled home to see his tight-knit, conservative, Catholic family in Huntington Beach, Calif. He came out to them over email and Skype before posting his online letter in London, but it was the first time in a year he could see them in person.
“You grow up learning that who you are isn’t natural, or is a sin,” Rogers said. “It does have an impact– it scares you, it really scares you.”
Nightline traveled with Rogers as he made his journey home and as he contemplates a possible return to the game he has been playing since he was a child.
“Gay athletes are athletes,” Rogers said. “If I go back to soccer, I want to go back as Robbie. I just want it to be as simple as that.”
Watch the full interview with Robbie Rogers Monday on Nightline at 12:35 a.m. ET.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
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